Sleep is an essential activity for all human beings. While we sleep, our mind and body are allowed to rest, making us feel rejuvenated the next day. For the average person, receiving 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night is critical if you want to function at your best the next day. But sleep is even more essential for athletes—including NBA players.
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Professional basketball is one of many sports that has a very demanding schedule for athletes. Between playing several games a week, traveling, practicing, and keeping their personal lives on an even keel, it can be difficult for basketball players to find the time to get adequate rest. But lack of sleep can lead to sluggish reflexes, which can lead to mistakes and missteps on the court. And because sleep is vital to the physical recovery process, pro athletes need their rest more than most people because they are constantly pushing their bodies to the brink.
It’s recommended that professional athletes get one more hour of sleep than they would if they weren’t competing. A study done at Stanford University in 2011 tracked the impact of extra sleep on the performance of 11 Stanford men’s basketball players. Following a 2-4 week period of research to establish baselines for each player, the students were then studied for a 5-7 week sleep extension period where they were required to get a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each night.
The study found that the players sprinted faster, were more accurate in their shooting and even increased their 3-point field goal percentage by 9.2 percent and their free throw percentage by 9 percent. The players also reported that their physical and mental well-being was better during competitions and practices when they slept more. The researchers determined that increased sleep helps athletes perform at their best.
While collegiate basketball is intense with classes, traveling, and playing, the season isn’t as long or as busy as it is for NBA players. This means that sleeping is even more essential for NBA athletes. Many NBA players have adjusted their sleep schedules to up their game. For example, LeBron James holds himself to a high sleep standard, trying to get 12 hours of sleep per night. Former NBA player Kobe Bryant and Golden State Warriors player Andre Iguodala also made significant adjustments to their sleep schedules so that they could reach their potential on the court.
Another study by Stony Brook University looked at the impact of sleep on NBA players by tracking NBA players and their late night Twitter interactions. Researchers analyzed over 35,000 tweets sent by more than 112 NBA players from over seven years. They found that players who sent a text in the middle of the night showed a drop in field goal percentages, the number of points they scored, the number of rebounds they had, as well as the number of minutes they played in the game.
While it’s crucial for individual players to get the rest that they need, basketball is a team sport. Someone on the bench can replace one player having a bad game, but if many of the players on a team are tired, their performance as a whole will go down dramatically.
When it comes to getting their much-needed sleep, NBA players have a lot of hurdles. However, if they commit to getting more rest, they can elevate their playing, which could impact a game or even an entire season.